Preview: Chicago host New York in Eastern Conference tilt

CHICAGO FIRE vs NEW YORK RED BULLS
TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
June 17, 2012 (WEEK 15, MLS Game #130)
5 p.m. ET (NBC SN)

The Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls renew their acquaintances on Sunday afternoon in front of the NBC Sports Network when the clubs face off at Toyota Park. The Fire are coming off back-to-back losses, both in the Eastern Conference, with a 2-0 loss at New England two weeks ago. The Red Bulls are playing a league game for the first time since May 23, their last action a 1-1 home draw with Chivas USA that extended their unbeaten run to six games.

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Ian Anderson; JAR (opposite): Fabio Tovar; 4th: Jorge Luna Hernandez
MLS Career: 135 games; FC/gm: 25.0; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 48; pens: 50

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INJURY REPORT:

  • CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Steven Kinney (R Achilles tendinitis); DOUBTFUL: DF Arne Friedrich (R hamstring strain)
  • NEW YORK RED BULLS -- OUT: MF Teemu Tainio (R knee sprain); FW Jose Angulo (R knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Thierry Henry (R calf strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CHI: Sebastian Grazzini … NY: Dax McCarty
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa … NY: Dane Richards

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (40 meetings): Fire 20 wins, 63 goals … Red Bulls 11 wins, 46 goals … Ties 9
AT CHICAGO (20 meetings): Fire 11 wins, 34 goals … Red Bulls 3 wins, 18 goals … Ties 6
RETURN MATCHES: 7/18: New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire, 1 p.m. ET; 10/6: New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire, 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC Sports)

LAST YEAR (MLS)
6/26: CHI 1, NY 1 (Pappa 58 – Lindpere 40)
8/13: NY 2, CHI 2 (Henry 9; Lindpere 63 – Oduro 16; Grazzini 24)
• The clubs have played to draws in each of their last three meetings, including a 1-1 at Toyota Park and a 2-2 draw at Red Bull Arena last year.
• The Red Bulls have never won at Toyota Park. In eight all-time meetings in Bridgeview, the Fire have won five, with three draws. New York’s last road win vs. Chicago came May 31, 2005, when the MetroStars posted a 3-1 victory at Soldier Field.
• Coaches record: Hans Backe vs. CHI: P2 W0 L0 T2 … Frank Klopas vs. NY: P4 W1 L0 T3

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire lost for the second time in as many matches in their last contest, a 2-0 defeat by the New England Revolution on June 2 at Gillette Stadium. The Fire are in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 18 points from 13 games.
LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: NE 2, CHI 0

• The Revolution took the lead in the 69th minute. Saer Sène quickly located an open Benny Feilhaber in the middle third, and his pass hit substitute Kelyn Rowe in stride as he cut in front of Gonzalo Segares and stabbed the ball inside the near post with a flick from the outside of his boot.
• Rowe connected with Feilhaber again four minutes later to double the advantage. The duo combined on the right side of the penalty area and a neat one-two slid Feilhaber in behind the line with the U.S. international midfielder polishing off from inside the area.
• Fire head coach Frank Klopas made three changes to the team that lost 2-1 to the Columbus at Crew Stadium. Sebastian Grazzini, Orr Barouch and Dominic Oduro all came into forward positions, in place of Rafael Robayo, Marco Pappa and Federico Puppo.
• CHICAGO FIRE (4-3-1-2): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Patrick Nyarko, Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause (Rafael Robayo 74) - Sebastian Grazzini - Orr Barouch (Federico Puppo 77), Dominic Oduro (Chris Rolfe 69).
TEAM NEWS
• The Fire have lost back-to-back league games and three in a row in all competitions, and three of their last four in league play.
• “We fall asleep on one play. Not one, on both plays. Just silly goals on our part - just lack of focus and concentration on the road. … The mentality is don't give anything away, but then we fall asleep and give up two silly goals,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “So it's disappointing.”
•  “We’ve had a couple of tough losses and it’s easy to get your head down,” midfielder Pause said. “It’s my role, and it’s important that we learn from it. We need to move forward and get ready for a big game [against New York] on [June] 17.”
• All three losses have come away from Toyota Park. After back-to-back home games against New York and Columbus, the Fire face five of the next seven games on the road.
• “I think we’ve been hanging tough on the road. We were hanging in there well in the first half,” said Patrick Nyarko. “We came out in the second half and I think we lost a little bit of our concentration and we gave up two goals. Two goals towards the end. I think we threw the game away. They didn’t go win the game. We made some mental errors and it cost us the game.”
• Since Dominic Oduro’s goal to give the Fire a late 2-1 win against Sporting KC on May 12, a Fire forward has not found the back of the net.
• “Clearly we had four or five good opportunities, hit the post twice and we didn't capitalize,” Klopas said. “When you're on the road and you don't score, you miss opportunities.” Said Pause: “For the first 70 minutes, we played some pretty good soccer. We created some pretty good chances.”
• Chris Rolfe made his first appearance for the Fire since re-signing with the club, in Chicago’s 2-0 loss at New England on June 2.
• “It’s tough, but right now we have a two-week break we are going to have to cross before our next game. It’s going to be hard to deal with the two weeks,” said Nyarko. “But I think mentally it’s good for our team right now because we are going through a tough patch right now. So mentally we are going to go ahead and regroup and come back strong.”

 

NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls make their return to league play for the first time since May 23, their last match a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls are in second place in the Eastern Conference, with 26 points from 13 games.
LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: NY 1, CHV 1

• Chivas USA took the lead two minutes after the second-half restart. From a corner kick, Rauwshan McKenzie headed the ball to Juan Pablo Ángel, and he buried a spectacular side volley past goalkeeper Ryan Meara and into the back of the net.
• The Red Bulls responded quickly, scoring the equalizer in the 56th minute. Right back Brandon Barklage unleashed a beautiful through ball down the right touchline that found a streaking Dane Richards, who then unleashed a precise low cross that found Kenny Cooper wide open in front of the net for an easy finish past Dan Kennedy.
• Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe made two changes to the team that came back for a 2-1 win against the Montréal Impact at Olympic Stadium. Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry both returned to the team, in place of Connor Lade and the suspended Victor Palsson.
• NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-4-2): Ryan Meara - Brandon Barklage, Heath Pearce, Markus Holgersson, Roy Miller - Dane Richards, Dax McCarty, Rafa Marquez, Joel Lindpere - Kenny Cooper, Thierry Henry.
TEAM NEWS
• While the draw ended the Red Bulls’ five-game winning run, their undefeated streak is now six games. The club record is nine games, set during the 2000 season.
• “We’re all disappointed not to have gotten a win,” goalscorer Kenny Cooper said. “We’ve been on a great run of wins in the last five games, it would have been nice to make it six. Obviously a point is better than none, but we’d rather have three.”
• Cooper pulled into a tie for the MLS Golden Boot with his 11th goal in the Red Bulls’ last league match.
• “He deserves it,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said. “He’s a hard, hard worker. Every game, every training session, and of course he has good guys around him who can feed him with the precise passes. I still think he has a lot to learn. I think he can improve.”
• Cooper has scored in four consecutive games, three shy of the all-time MLS record. “My teammates have been finding me,” said Cooper. “There’s just so much quality in this team. Obviously, having an opportunity to play with Thierry up top is a great privilege. His qualities are incredible and he, along with the other guys out there, are doing a great job.”
• Thierry Henry returned to the New York lineup vs. Chivas USA, playing 90 minutes in his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury April 28 vs. New England.
• “I would say a little bit positive surprise because he’s been out, by the weekend, about four weeks. And that’s without competitive games, and it’s not enough to just do some training sessions,” said Backe. “He was very, very close three or four times to have a free runner and to finish the game off. So I’m happy with his performance.”
• The Red Bulls have allowed four goals over their last six games – though they’ve gone three games without a clean sheet since a 322-minute shutout span – all since allowing four goals to D.C. United on April 22.
• “We’ve been defending more since the D,C, game when they scored 4 goals on us. We basically felt embarrassed about it, especially against one of our rivals. We came together as a team and we’re sick of giving up goals like that, said goalkeeper Ryan Meara. “The back line has been great, but it’s a lot more- it’s the whole team defending and everyone chipping in.”
• A week following the Chivas USA match, the Red Bulls defeated the USL PRO Charleston Battery 3-0 in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, behind goals from Kenny Cooper, Heath Pearce and Dax McCarty.
• Here’s the Red Bulls side: Ryan Meara (GK), Brandon Barklage (Jonathan Borrajo 77’), Markus Holgersson, Wilman Conde, Heath Pearce, Jan Gunnar Solli (Victor Palsson 74’), Dax McCarty (Ryan Maduro 88’), Mehdi Ballouchy, Connor Lade, Jhonny Arteaga, Kenny Cooper
• But a week later, the Red Bulls were bounced from the competition in a 3-1 loss in extra time to the USL PRO Harrisburg City Islanders.
• Here’s the New York team: Ryan Meara, Brandon Barklage (Jonathan Borrajo 115’), Markus Holgersson, Wilman Conde, Heath Pearce, Jan Gunnar Solli, Dax McCarty (Stephen Keel 117’), Mehdi Ballouchy, Connor Lade, Jhonny Arteaga, Kenny Cooper
• Wilman Conde played in both Open Cup matches and could be ready for a return to the Red Bulls first team. He has not appeared in a league match since March 31.
• “I feel really good,” Conde said. “Truth is, since returning to practice a month ago, I feel fully recovered from injuries, knocks and pain. Now I’m just focused on playing and getting as many minutes as possible.”
• But there are other injury concerns out of the international break, as midfielders Rafa Márquez and Joel Lindpere suffered thigh and back injuries, respectively, while on national team duty with Mexico and Estonia. Lindpere is expected to be available, but Márquez is still in doubt. “Probably, he still has a problem with his thigh,” said Backe. “But we have to wait and take it day by day.”
• There is another injury concern as Thierry Henry was unable to take part in full training early in the week after suffering a calf injury.